Interview with Danielle Meijer, philosophy professor, DePaul University

Q: Is philosophy an actual thing that can exist outside a university? Or is it like quadratic equations?

Of course philosophy exists outside of the ivory tower and as a communitarian anarchist I’d say institutions do more harm than good when it comes to pretty much any discipline.  Anyone can think philosophically and do philosophy, that’s what it’s here for. 

Q: What’s a working philosophical definition of reality?

There is no universal philosophical ideology/approach that all philosophers would agree on, and certainly no one claims to be able to sum up reality in a sentence or two. From a phenomenological perspective, reality is “all the ways in which reality can appear to consciousness.” This doesn’t mean reality is just whatever we think it is in some relativist way or that we don’t have to think critically about how we interpret our experiences.  There is a world that exists and it’s definitely not whatever we want it to be (we can project a lot of BS onto the world, but the world “pushes back” so to speak) but the key is that phenomenologists understand that we can’t know anything about the world without relying on our perspective. A for-sure thing, at least, is that even if you turn out to be just a brain in a vat or living in the matrix as long as you’re a being capable of experience you exist. Maybe nothing else around you is what it seems to be but for sure you are real in some way. To have experience is to be

Q: Have you ever been in a real life situation when reality became very fluid?

Words are squirrely, they can mean a lot of different things, so I need to know if my idea of what the word “fluid” means in this context is the same as yours, but I’m going to assume you mean, like, in an LSD kinda way.  I’m not sure if my perception has gone “strange”—for sure I’ve had experiences that have deeply challenged what I thought was possible/true/real and those experiences continue to baffle me, but thus far my consciousness has obediently colored within the lines. I mean, I’ve never even been high or drunk and I’m nearing 40, dang (not against it, just haven’t gotten around to it I guess). 

Q: Is reality a game, or a performance?

Is reality itself a game or performance? Girl I gotta put gaiters on this question is so deep. Maybe it is, who knows? It’s hard to prove either way since we don’t know what we don’t know, right? If something is controlling us, it may be impossible to ever find out if we don’t have enough clues. That being said, for sure I think our lived existence is a performance. We are always performing our roles and relationships in life—the role of a child, parent, teacher, actor, dancer, etc. Not that we should take these performances to be “fake”—there is nothing behind our masks except other masks because those masks are who we are. Masks are our ontology, they are not hiding it. After all, who could we be outside of our role or relationships? 

Q: Is it possible for someone to exist in more than one reality at once?

If reality is . . .well, reality, then I don’t know if there can be multiple ones since the term is all-encompassing (in my view). But it could be like the philosophical story “Flatland”—we could only be experiencing a part of reality in such a way that we don’t have a clear picture of what it all is. But that doesn’t mean there is more than one reality, just more than one way of experiencing it, and better and worse ways (more or less “fleshed out”). If we have access to too little of reality, then we could have trouble getting a clear picture of what exists and how it all works. 

 We can only get closer to the truth by asking each other what the world looks like from all our perspectives and seeing where we differ and then try to figure out why.  No one can experience the world in the exact same way we do—not even a Goddess/creator being since even that perspective is just that, a perspective—and  everyone’s experience is crucial to fleshing out the being of reality. We need each other to understand what this all means. So, how do you experience reality, Marfa? 

What do you think?

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